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Life Story / Obituary
Tony Nelson was a loving husband, caring father, adoring grandfather, genuine friend and committed professional. As a perfectionist he lived by the mantra, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” A compassionate Christian, he treated people with respect and worked for justice on behalf of many. Tony wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get to work, and he readily took time to talk with people and truly listen to them. He didn’t have to say much to be heard. Tony was a man of integrity and honor in the way he conducted his life and attended to others.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah to Frederick Anton and Carolyn (Porter) Nelson, Tony was named after his father but always went by “Tony.” His parents welcomed him into their lives on February 13, 1943.
Young Tony’s childhood was filled with activities that gave him a lifelong love of the out-of-doors. He enjoyed scouting and swimming, so it was natural that he worked as a Scouting camp counselor and swam competitively (the butterfly) in high school, obtaining a 4 year swimming scholarship in college. After graduating from East High in Salt Lake City in 1966, Tony went on to earn a degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Utah.
College not only equipped Tony for a career, it introduced him to the woman who became his wife. Marian and Tony met on a blind date when he was a sophomore and she a freshman. He escorted her to a fraternity event, and that was the beginning of a relationship that grew into love, commitment and being best friends as they spent more and more time together. The couple became engaged on Valentine’s Day 1967, the perfect occasion for Tony’s romantic gesture. At the time, he was working for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York while Marian was still in school in Salt Lake. As he talked to her on the phone that night, Tony asked Marian to look in a certain drawer where, unbeknownst to her, her parents had planted her engagement ring. Right then and there with family all around, Marian accepted Tony’s proposal. They married a few months later on June 24, 1967 at St. Ambrose Church in Salt Lake City.
As the newlyweds headed to Rochester to set up housekeeping, they made a stop in Chicago. Unfortunately, their car was broken into while unattended, and their clothes were stolen. Still, the happy couple made their way (with a few less articles to move) and settled into life in Rochester for the next nine years. That experience must not have dimmed their view of Chicago too much, because they eventually moved there. From Rochester, Tony’s work as now a plant manager, took them to Nashua, New Hampshire, then Chicago and finally to Jarvis Pemco in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1996.
Tony and Marian were blessed with two children: Peter born in 1971 and Patrick in 1975. Tony was supportive of his children and involved in their lives, setting a fine example of fatherhood. Because family was very important, they returned to Salt Lake City almost every summer to see grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When their sons were grown with families of their own, it was unfortunate that their grandchildren lived far away. Grandpa and Grandma looked forward to video chatting which kept them in close contact with Ruth and Cora in Salt Lake and Ripley and Tess in Australia.
Tony was instrumental in starting St. Tom’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, because of his own experience in becoming a Catholic as an adult. In 2005, Tony retired but that hardly meant slowing down. He threw himself into a major project for St. Tom’s becoming the liaison between St. Thomas More Student Parish and the construction company. It was truly a labor of love. JustFaith, the Ecumenical Social Justice committee and District Coordinator for the AARP tax program that helps seniors, disabled and low income people all kept him very busy. He read books and was passionate about climate change, social justice, racism and women’s issues within the church. With a heart for under-served people in his community, Tony worked tirelessly for justice and wellbeing.
Outdoor activities were always part of Tony’s list of fun activities. Hiking with his sons and grandchildren were always part of vacations. He never let his son Patrick forget the 20 mile roundtrip “death march” in Yellowstone to Shoshone Lake and back, along with the large crop of blisters it induced. He took up bicycling after spinning for exercise. He was part of the original Chain Gang Cyclists. He loved the exercise and the camaraderie. It wasn’t uncommon for the group to put in a 30 to 35 miles in one evening. Tony was a people-person who showed sincere interest in others. He was loving, and dearly loved by family and friends alike.
Tony Nelson, age 73 of Kalamazoo, Michigan died on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 after being hit by a truck while on his bicycle. He passed away doing something he truly loved. It is without doubt that Tony would encourage forgiveness of the driver. Members of his family include his wife, Marian; 2 sons: Peter (Jackie Low) and their children: Ripley and Tess Nelson-Low; and Patrick (Cathy) and their children: Ruth and Cora. He is also survived by his sister, Mindy (Rick) MacDougall. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 AM on Wednesday at St. Thomas More Student Parish, 421 Monroe St. Please visit Tony’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Peace House or Trauma Recovery Associates. Arrangements by Life Story Funeral Homes, Betzler – Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Drive (375-2900).